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Sr Pat to contest non-renewal of missionary visa

Lawyers of Australian missionary Sr Patricia Ann Fox, NDS said they will ask the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to reconsider its denial to renew or extend the nun’s visa.

Attys. Jobert Pahilga and Ma Sol Taule said that BI is mistaken in deciding Fox’s missionary visa has long expired, explaining the 10-year extension and renewal rule should only apply to her case on the day the BI converted her tourist visa on September 5, 2014.

“[When] the BI approved the conversion of Sister Fox’s tourist visa into a missionary visa, she was given a new or a fresh period of 10 years from the said date or until 2024 to stay in the country,” the lawyers said in a statement.

In an order dated September 13, the BI denied Fox’s application to renew or extend her missionary visa, saying her current visa has long expired.

The BI cited its the Memorandum of Agreement with the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines dated November 10, 1997 which restricts missionary visa holders for up to 10 years in the country.

The BI also said it has already issued a deportation order against the nun for her alleged violations of the conditions of her missionary visa and “undesirability”.

The BI’s orders are widely seen to have stemmed after President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated verbal attacks as well as accusations that the missionary has participated in rallies against his government.

Fox’s lawyers however said that the deportation order against Fox is not yet final and executory as it is under appeal with the Department of Justice.

“The decision to grant or deny the application for extension or renewal of her missionary visa should not be based and hinge on the order of deportation. And even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the decision of the BI whether to extend her missionary visa will be ‘without prejudice to the resolution of her appeal,’” the lawyers said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Australian lawyer says reason for deportation ‘preposterous’

Australian lawyer and human rights advocate Gill Boehringer said he has instructed his Philippine lawyers to contest allegations cited by the Bureau of Immigration in planning to deport him.

Boehringer, tagged as having associated himself with communist groups in the Philippines, is being prevented from entering the country since August 8 upon arrival from Sydney.

“I have instructed my lawyers to contest all allegations against me, and to seek the lifting of the ‘blacklist’, the ‘watchlist’ and the exclusion order,” he said.

The former Macquerie University law school dean and professor in a statement said the allegation by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency that he is associated with underground groups in the country is “preposterous”.

“It seems that in the Philippines today almost anyone can be labelled a terrorist or in association with terrorists. I deny the accusation. I certainly am not a supporter of terrorism from whatever source,” he said.

Boehringer said he did not attend the anti-Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation rally in the Philippines in November 2015 and there was no rally in February 2018 when he observes Lumad schools activities in Mindanao.

He explained that his participation in Lumad school activities was based only on his special interests in teaching and research.

“I believe there is no basis for my exclusion from the Philippines in what was an educational experience for myself, the others who travelled with me into the mountain district, and also, I like to think, for those we met with there,” he said.

Boehringer admitted he had been critical of policies of successive governments since he became an international observer of the 2007 and 2010 elections but denied these as activities of a terrorist.

“Rather, they might more appropriately be considered an attempt to make a rational contribution within the vibrant national discourse about how democracy can be strengthened, the rule of law protected and social justice ensured,” he said.

“I would ask the government to recognize me as a person who has visited the country over many years with no subversive intent. I have sought in an intellectual way, through public dialogue, to aid in the maintenance of the rule of law and the structures and processes of democracy,” he added.

Boehringer thanked his lawyers and his doctors for taking care of him throughout his ordeal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, as well as the individuals and supporters who called on the Rodrigo Duterte government to allow him entry to the Philippines on medical and humanitarian grounds, to no avail.

Boehringer travelled to the Philippines to visit his Filipino wife.

Meanwhile, Boehringer’s physician, Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes, slammed the BI on its decision to deport the 84-year old lawyer.

“The Bureau of Immigration is being heartless in pursuing the deportation of Prof. Gill Boehringer, Rivera-Reyes of the Health Action for Human Rights said.

She said Boehringer “has a history of an almost fatal pulmonary embolism. Aside from his risk of having deep vein thrombosis, he is currently suffering from cellulitis on both legs,” she explained.

Human rights group Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, which counts Boehringer as a member, also said it condemned his detention and planned deportation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BI orders Sr. Pat’s deportation; lawyers to file motion for reconsideration

The Bureau of Immigration has ordered the deportation of Australian missionary Sr Patricia Anne Fox for allegedly violating the limitations and conditions of her stay in the Philippines as a missionary visa holder.

In a resolution received by Fox’s lawyers Thursday, July 19, the BI said Fox violated Commonwealth Act No. 163, otherwise known as The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, making her “undesirable” in the Philippines.

The BI said the nun, a member of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion and coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, “illegally engaged and interfered in Philippine political activities” in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The BI Resolution sent to Fox’s lawyers.

Last April 16, BI agents arrested and detained Sr Patricia Fox after she participated in a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindanao.

Fox and her lawyers explained that her defense of human rights and campaign for land reform are religious in nature.

The nun’s troubles began after President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened her with deportation earlier this year. The president has also repeatedly derided Fox in subsequent speeches, even calling the nun’s God as “stupid”.

Fox, however, gained support from many churches as well as strangers. The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives later filed a resolution for her naturalization as a Filipino.

Motion for reconsideration

Atty. Ma Sol Taule, one of Fox’s lawyers, told Kodao they are considering filing a motion for reconsideration at the BI on Monday, July 23.

“[Fox’s] legal team is dismayed [with the BI resolution]. The BI’s decision is wrong, Sr. Pat has been doing her missionary work in the Philippines for the past 27 years undisturbed by any deportation case,” Taule said.

Taule added that helping the poor is not a risk to public interest, peace or order and that, in fact, the government must thank [Fox] for her selfless service to the oppressed Filipino people.

“Duterte has no basis to say that Sr Pat is an undesirable alien, unless his definition of undesirability is helping the poor,” Taule added.

The lawyer said the Fox’s missionary work with the poor is not defiance to the [Duterte] government but a firm solidarity to the poor and their struggles. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sr Pat Fox and her people

The Philippine government must have thought her subversive and wanted her punished.

Last April 16, Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents arrested and detained Sr Patricia Fox of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion. The arrest may have stemmed from her recent participation in a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindanao that so-rankled the military. Australian by birth, tall, white and blond, she was obviously a foreigner who they must have thought has no business participating in political activities, particularly those that point out the Rodrigo Duterte regime’s many human rights violations.

But the military and the BI could not be more wrong. Not only did Sr Pat make the Philippines her home for 27 years, she dedicated her mission to helping farmers in their agrarian reform struggles. A volunteer of the peasant group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura in Central Luzon and a human rights defender of long-standing, she has long been considered a compatriot by the farmers and the workers. For them, the kindly nun is more Filipino than most.

When news of her arrest broke out, lawyers and human rights workers rushed to the BI office in Manila to support her. Not long after, nuns and priests followed. Before the night was over, a bishop, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, came.

Still, the BI refused to let her go. The agency wanted the elderly nun investigated for being an “undesirable alien.” Word went round that the government wanted her deported.

Sr Patricia Fox, NDS upon her release from detention. (SINAGBAYAN–Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan photo)

It only galvanized more support for the beleaguered nun. This morning, the rally in downtown Manila organized to defend judicial independence and to denounce US bombing in Syria made a detour to the BI to call for Sr Pat’s release. Before long, more nuns visited and yet another bishop, Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Yniguez, came. Prominent activists and legislators also arrived. It must have been shocking to the BI to witness that their unassuming prisoner is well-loved by many, both prominent and humble, young and old.

Outside of BI, statements flew fast and thick. It did not only come from Manila or from Central Luzon where she does her Godly work. It came from as far sa Mindanao and abroad. Social media lit up with condemnations of her arrest and calls for her release. Photos of her remaining calm and even smiling were shared widely. Politicians who do not care about her work also condemned her arrest.

At three o’clock this afternoon, the BI had no choice but to let Sr Pat go. Still, they threatened her with more investigations. Sr Pat’s troubles with the Duterte regime is just beginning it seems.

Outside of BI’s gates, the nun was mobbed both by supporters and the media. Yet there she was, smiling and radiant. It must have been an ordeal for a 71-year old and frail-looking woman to be arrested and detained for more than 24 hours. This early, though, it is clear who is losing in this struggle. This early, it appears it is this tyrannical government and its highhandedness that is undesirable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)